Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/26/12

Thirteen days remain in the regular season and there are some key games that could decide playoff spots and seeds. Here are the five contests that will impact these races…

1. Buffalo at Washington, March 27
The eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference will likely come down to two teams: Buffalo and Washington. They will play each other this Tuesday night in D.C. in what will be their final chance to get a leg up on one another without having to watch out-of-town scores. Buffalo and Washington are tied with 84 points with six games to go. Their top stars, Alex Ovechkin and Ryan Miller, come into the game red-hot. The sprint to the finish is on, and Tuesday’s winner will get a nice head start.

2. San Jose vs. Los Angeles, April 5 and 7
Rivals San Jose and Los Angeles will finish the season playing a crucial home-and-home. It starts in L.A. next Thursday night before heading up to the Bay Area for the season finale next Saturday. As it stands right now, the two teams are knotted at 86 points with seven games left. Both have games in hand on most of the other bubble teams, which means this home-and-home could decide the Pacific Division. Or, if the Sharks and Kings stub their toe the home-and-home could decide the final playoff spot in the West.

3. San Jose vs. Dallas, March 31 and April 3
Before the Sharks can start thinking about their games against L.A., first they’ll have to survive a separate home-and-home with the Dallas Stars. Glen Gulutzan’s crew is currently leading the division by one point, just ahead of San Jose and Los Angeles. If the Sharks have any desires of winning the division, they’ll have to get through the current leaders starting this weekend. Contrarily, it will be a chance for Dallas to put their foot on San Jose’s throats with less than five games remaining.

4. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh, April 5
Other than the battle for eighth, the most compelling race is for the top seed that could play either the Sabres or Capitals in the first round. Thanks to Pittsburgh’s magnificent run in the last month, they are now in a virtual dead heat with New York with seven games to go. John Tortorella’s Rangers have 101 points, while the Penguins sit in fourth with 100. The two will meet in the Steel City next Thursday. The winner could very well claim the top seed and avoid a first-round matchup with Philadelphia.

5. Nashville at Detroit, March 30
The Central Division trio of Nashville, Detroit and Chicago are all jostling for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. With their decisive win over Chicago on Sunday, the Predators have created a two-horse race (for the moment) between themselves and the Red Wings. The Preds (96 points) and Wings (95) have their final meeting of the year this Friday in Detroit. Will the winner control their own destiny for hosting Game 1 (or Game 7, for that matter) of their potential first round series?

Photo credit: Getty Images
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